Have you ever tried to start a conversation at a concert? Or at a lively New Year’s party? Did you meet someone really cool and go hoarse trying to get to know that person? How loud it is and how much is going on are all part of the fun—until you are looking for something more.

Trying to start and have a meaningful conversation in the middle of a newsfeed is a similar experience. It is possible, maybe even commendable, but it doesn’t feel as natural as leaving a casual witty comment and moving on. Have you ever gone to a brand’s page to learn more and tried searching for a topic? You can’t. That is by design and at this point, short-form, photo- and video-heavy sharable content is an art form. Take a look at this year’s Shorty Awards.

Getting lucky

Think back to our party example. What if you could step outside to get some fresh air and talk? You may not go back to the party for a while. You may decide to meet up later for coffee. You found who you were looking for. It is the same experience with content. We have all entered a question into Google and got lucky whether or not we pressed the “I’m feeling lucky” button. Someone else asked that very same question, got several responses, and posted which one worked. You’re done as soon as you started.

Have you noticed these links all go to a community? Community sites represent the tribal knowledge of a group of like-minded individuals. When you visit a community you don’t just get a snapshot of what is new, you have choices for how you’d like to engage, and you benefit from what others think is most valuable. For example, you can search for what you are looking for or browse top posts. In social media, there is a loss of valuable information and connections that aren’t necessarily short-form, and are buried in the feed as soon as they are posted.

Social networks or owned branded communities?

Both. The best social strategies include both social network participation and owned social communities.

Facebook and Twitter are stream of consciousness. Whatever is new and shiny has a place. And that place is often in line or on the train—places where you have a few minutes and want to be entertained. Sixty-five percent of time spent on social networks is spent on mobile. I do it too. It is a guilty pleasure for me akin to celebrity magazines and reality TV.

When thinking about how to connect with your customers and ultimately get to know them, it is important to remember their frame of mind and intentions. People on social networks are curious, open, and looking to be entertained. This is a great place to get their attention. People who come to your community site are looking to engage. They have a goal. Maybe they got a new bike and are looking for recommendations on good places to ride, a way to connect with other enthusiasts, or tips and tricks. They are looking for an experience. It is a different type of attention and the results and rewards are very different.